Many writers start young; they begin the journey inspired to write a testament to their inner Hemingway, Stephen King, James Joyce or fill in the blank.
It could have been high school, college, whenever writers feel that what they read is good, but inside of them there’s the seed of something as good or maybe even better.
Hubris? Maybe, but isn’t this how great writers are born – with the aspiration to be the next important literary voice?
And so it starts to form, the ONE story, unique to the writer attaching itself with markers of setting, characters, experience, devastating and remarkable all at once. No one else could ever write this story. No one else ever will.
But will the ONE story ever be written?
The ONE story speaks to the writer in a deep and meaningful way. It creates a lasting impression that cannot, that will not leave the writer alone until it comes out fully formed and perfect.
So what about this makes it a trap?
If writers think the ONE story is the defining story, then perfection is the trap. Does any writer know who they are well enough to proffer a story and say this story defines who I am as a writer?
Not easy. Writing is a craft and writers learn things along the way. If some of the most prolific writers were unsure whether or not their work would adequately reflect who they were before they tried to publish we would not have the literary goldmine of authors like Isaac Asimov (Over 500 published works).
It takes guts to get out there and show oneself. And the ONE story doesn’t stop pestering the poor writer to do exactly that. Inside those intensely personal stories are characters that literally don’t shut up.
“Make me real.” These characters chatter inside a writer’s head endlessly. There is no ignoring them. Writers often know the characters in their ONE story so well they consider them close friends and want nothing more than to introduce them to the world. But that requires the perfect plot. Without that those ‘friends’ are doomed to hang around and irritate the writer like actors begging a director for parts in an as yet unwritten play.
The trap? Keep writing until everybody is happy.
And if the main character happens to be the writer, the trap lies in trying to tell the story without nuances. When emotion fights plot and good storytelling, one’s own story is difficult for any writer and telling it well is a task done successfully by only a few. The trap is sealed tight by the writer who wants to be objective and subjective at the same time.
The trap ? Try writing as ‘jailer’ and ‘prisoner’ at the same time until the story comes out perfect.
The ONE story comes from personal encounters with science, history, family, friendship or countless connections writers make before they even know they will take pen in hand. Something leaves an impression, so strong that the writer can’t shake it. Personal means the story has deeply touched the writer in a way that the writer feels committed to the job of telling it and being the only one to tell it.
The trap? Commitment to ONE story.
“I started this story and I’m going to finish it.” Sound familiar? Writers become attached to the ONE story and begin to leave other stories untold. It’s almost like cheating on the ONE story if they work on something else.
What a dilemma! Is it the ONE story that will launch the writer into the public eye as the next new literary master? Or is the ONE story trapping the writer in the world of a rewriting nightmare?
You would think any writer would want to trade constant angst for the glorious feeling of writing “The End”. But these stories hang around so long because writers are constantly road testing them for feed back. As though writers don’t know they have damn good stories.
Imagine a writer’s group, the ONE story in the form of three or four pages read aloud, maybe not the first time, maybe the group knows a summary of the story and eagerly waits for rewritten snippets. There is a hush, and perhaps an applause and always some form of the words:
“Awesome, you have to finish that story.”
“I love it!”
“Great story, I would definitely read it if it were a novel.”
“You have to write it.”
And so on and so on. Proof that the ONE story has legs.
The trap? Keep helping the ONE story walk with hope maybe it can on it’s own – someday.
The walls of the trap are mysteriously constructed by bricks of doubt. Once the doubt is removed so are the walls. A writer can write anything. It’s a story. It’s what a writer does. And a story with legs can not only walk it can run, all the way to a best seller list. But a writer will never know if it can until that writer lets go.
Free yourself. Write on to “The End.” Then dance a little and write something else.
Christina for PenPaperWrite
If you are in Atlanta, GA we have another 60 Scenes Writing Method ONE-DAY WORKSHOP coming up on July 23rd. Find out more here: www.60scenes.com
Finish your story no matter how long it’s been percolating by learning to use scene and storyboard. If you can put your ONE story into 60 scenes you have a novel.